in Oaxaca: Ants, Noise and Toilet Paper
examination of the occasional tourist review of quality, reputable
bed and breakfast accommodations in Oaxaca, reveals commentaries
on at least one popular travel website relating to noise,
insects, smells and sanitation
Travelers to a Southern, Third World country, who want at
least partial immersion into the host society as an element
of their total vacation, must recognize that their choice
of accommodation is an integral ingredient of the overall
experience. By virtue of not selecting a Holiday Inn,
Fiesta Inn or high end hotel in another international chain,
youre making a statement, and its not necessarily
about how much you can afford or choose to pay.
Tourists who opt to lodge in the quaint, traditional setting
of a family-run bed and breakfast, guest house or small hotel
in Oaxaca seek a taste of the real Mexico, and
a personal touch
but such a choice at times comes
with night-time noise, unfamiliar insects, the odd unpleasant
odor, and house rules which our Western mores, fueled by ethnocentrism,
might lead us to mistakenly believe result in unsanitary conditions.
Even opting for the more traditional lodging style is no guarantee
that your experience will be any different. Oaxaca is Oaxaca
a UNESCO world heritage site, so it must, and of course
does, have something special to offer, including its multiplicity
of rich and diverse cultural traditions.
* * * * * * *
Invite a middle class Oaxacan couple to vacation in your suburban
home in Chicago, New York or Toronto. The unaccustomed, every
morning before leaving for the days activities, will
go outside and place a neatly tied plastic bag in the trash
soiled toilet tissue.
The state of Oaxaca, as is the case with many Mexican destinations,
does not have the quality of waste removal infrastructure
to which you are likely accustomed. Oaxacans have learned
that the best way to avoid clogged and backed up drains, minimize
the likelihood of unnecessary repair costs, be a considerate
neighbor, and act in an ecologically responsible manner, is
to not flush paper into either the municipal drainage system
or the septic tank.
Although toilet paper has been around since late 14th century
China, and the first flush toilet was developed in 1596, it
seems as though were still struggling with the perfect
recipe for excrement disposal
at least here in southern
Mexico. But are we unsanitary? You be the judge: your hotel
staff removing the bagged Charmin from the hotel every day
or two; or running the risk of sewage coming up from the drain
either in your lodging or outside on the street.
Your hosts will not ask you to leave for breaching this often
unwritten rule, and theyll probably never know that
youve done so. But do consider their request. And by
all means, when you have Mexican house guests with you in
your home town, tell them they can, and should, flush it down.
Unpleasant odors are a fact of life from time to time in most
rental accommodations, and in fact in the majority of Oaxacan
households regardless of socio-economic rank of their inhabitants.
Its a function of antiquated municipal water delivery
and waste removal systems. At certain times of the year our
tap water arrives somewhat less than transparent, even though
we religiously use and clean our filters---its even
been known to happen in some major American and Canadian cities
from time to time during a hot spell. The water is nevertheless
safe without boiling or additional treatment, for bathing,
doing dishes and other non-ingesting purposes. A partial solution
is to order trucks, known as pipas, to fill our cisterns.
The water usually, but not always, arrives crystal clear,
sometimes even with a bit of green algae, evidencing its origin
from a pure mountain spring, though not Irish.
In the rainy season at times sewers overflow and otherwise
manage to create peculiar smells for a short while. We learn
to control and eradicate such temporary scents in short order
with one or more antiseptic-style formulations.
Noise and the prevalence of insects and small animals is a
function of the lodging environment you choose. Certainly
if you elect to stay on the top floor of a suburban hotel
with hermetically sealed vinyl or aluminum windows facing
a pool or alleyway, youll reduce the likelihood
of encountering late-night noise and harmless tiny lizards.
Many travelers are drawn to downtown lodgings where inevitably
there will be noise at night, predominantly from vehicular
traffic, and as you get closer to the zócalo, from
music and year-round fiestas. As you move out from the centro
histórico, the quality of the din begins to change,
at times characterized by canine barking, rooster calls and
a plethora of other sounds echoing across the valley. Regardless
of where travelers elect to stay, there will no doubt be the
resonance of horns, bells, whistles and calls of vendors plying
their wares, and of late night fireworks. This is part of
the culture of southern Mexican society, on the one hand lacking
noise bylaws (or at least their enforcement), and on the other
evidencing a richness of tradition, albeit different from
that within which most tourists to the region have been raised.
Many visitors either purchase ear plugs at a local pharmacy
or bring along their own, certainly doing the trick, if thats
what you want, that is to reduce the opportunity to enrich
your oratory sense late night before retiring, and in the
early morning hours.
Selecting a lodging style characterized by rooms with wooden
doors and windows opening onto a lush courtyard, or perhaps
a guest house with aesthetically pleasing adobe walls assuring
tourists of a fresh and comfortable inside temperature no
matter how hot it is outside, enables vacationers to enhance
their Latin American travel experience. But you will see the
odd spider, maybe even little lizards which keep mosquitoes
in check, or ants or beetles depending on the time of year.
Its all a trade off, for both guests and their hosts.
We fumigate periodically, but have environmental concerns
as well. We might try to visually enhance our accommodations
by putting art on the adobe walls, although this creates an
ideal hiding place for harmless crawling insects. We maintain
a rustic look with pine or cedar doors and windows which we
might leave open during the day for fresh air circulation,
and to welcome the pleasing perfume of flowering bushes in
our gardens, but even with screens we cannot keep out every
minute courtyard critter.
* * * * * * *
The rewards of selecting an accommodation-type which fits
into the context of the vacation experience you seek are innumerable.
There are only two prerequisites: that you seek to understand,
get used to and in certain cases welcome, and accept for at
least a week or two, the lifestyle, worldview and cultural
traditions of others who in fact are not all different from
you; and that you remember that your hosts are dedicated to
providing you with value-added service which above all will
ensure your comfort, safety and security, and enjoyment of
the magic of Oaxaca.
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
Starkmans Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (
) combines the best of bed & breakfast Oaxaca (quaintness
and personal touch) with the comfort and service found in
the best downtown Oaxaca hotels. The Casa Machaya Oaxaca accommodations
have the added advantage of co-owner, Alvin, a Oaxaca destinations
expert for a major international travel website, who provides
Oaxaca tours to both house guests and those lodging elsewhere,
both in downtown Oaxaca and in the surburbs.
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